It's one against one, and the glory or blame is yours to claim. The result - witnessed by the world - reveals a great deal. That's the premise behind Center Circle's latest feature, 12 Yards Out. We'll take current or former U.S. National Team players and put them on the spot, ask provocative questions and let the chips fall where they may. Their answers promise to be funny, personal, and just like a PK ... unexpected.
12 YARDS OUT WITH BRAD FRIEDEL
THE FRIEDEL FILE
U.S. National Team:
BF: I don't think they were as bad as some ex-players and others wanted to perceive them, barring the first result. The first result - whether we lost 1-0 or 6-0 - I thought it was a strange performance. It was almost like a one-off for a U.S. team where people weren't up for it. For the first game of the World Cup, to take the field in that manner was a bit strange to watch. I thought the performance against Italy was pretty solid. Although I didn't think we started very well against Ghana, I do think we were coming into the game when a very, very dubious penalty was given. So again, I don't think the Ghana result was that bad. I think people were trying to pick out really negative things based on either not liking Bruce over the years, or thinking he picked the wrong team, or some people based on how poor the first performance was. I didn't see a whole heck of a lot bad in the Italy performance, and I think if you don't try to play solid defensively against Ghana, you could get overrun, so I didn't think that was a particularly bad tactic. I know a lot of people were complaining that we didn't play the right people up front, that we should have attacked more, etc., but it's real easy from the sidelines when you're watching it. Unless you're there every day, you really don't know who's playing well and who isn't. I think a lot of people's comments were based on something else other than what actually happened.
2) Who should the U.S. be looking at as the next coach of the national team?
BF: Tough one. I think because of the success Bruce had over eight years, and helped bring the USA's name back in good grace after our 1998 showing, a lot of people might be thinking it has to be an American. I don't know if there's another American out there at this moment that has the pedigree that Bruce had when he got the job, and I definitely don't think there's one that has his pedigree now. Saying that, I could be completely wrong. There could be a sleeping giant, because there are a lot of coaches nowadays that I don't know. I'm not trying to slight American coaches at all. I just think a larger name might be the way to go right now to keep the U.S.'s name - perception wise - on the map. The only thing with that is you're going to have to pay a heck of a lot of money, and if that big name doesn't pan out, you're stuck with something that's broken and you've paid out a lot of money to someone and the team may have regressed. Let's put it this way: I'm glad I don't have to make the choice, but whoever they do choose, they have to back him 150%.
3) What’s Brad Friedel's next job?
BF: Right now my next job is going to play FC Salzburg in the UEFA Cup (Ed. note: Blackburn tied 2-2 on Sept. 14). I've got two more years on my contract. I'll try to get up to 40 [years old]. I'll be 36 through this season, so I'll try to carry on three more years after that. If I can do it over here - great. Cleveland is inching closer and closer to a team in MLS, so you never know what will happen there. I've got a really good relationship with the club and the fans here at Blackburn. Tracy is happy, and we've got another baby on the way in seven weeks, and we're pretty happy staying over here. All things being equal, I'd love to continue here a little while longer before I decide what my next step is going to be in life.
4) Do you see yourself part of a group that would potentially own a team in Cleveland?
BF: I've been asked at the moment to be an investor. It's something that I'm seriously looking at, and it's in the hands of my advisors at the moment. We'll see what happens.
5) Who has the hardest shot in the EPL?
BF: I would have to say either Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink or Patrick Berger. If they really, really hit one, it's coming in between 90-100 miles per hour.
6) What's one thing about soccer in England that American fans really don't get?
BF: They don't understand entirely how the game of soccer over here is their culture and their religion. It's everything tied up into one. People are either in a good mood or a bad mood the entire week based on whether the team wins or loses.
7) Do you think American people respect your accomplishments, or understand what it takes to be successful overseas?
BF: I don't know. I've never really thought about it. I don't think Americans would fully understand exactly what myself, Claudio [Reyna], Joe-Max [Moore], Kasey [Keller], Jurgen [Sommer], Harkesy, Tab [Ramos], Roy Wegerle, Dooley, Stewart ... to do what all of us have done, to carve out a long-term professional career over here is an accomplishment in itself. Then the desire and drive you have within yourself to be able to succeed -if you can get with teams and win trophies and get promotions, that's impressive. I should include a guy like Marcus Hahnemann, who did ever so well to stick it out over here. I remember there were people laughing at him when he signed for Fulham, saying he wasn't good enough. Well, he's doing great now and that's a tribute to him. In terms of accomplishments, I just don't think most Americans can understand what it's like over here unless they've lived over here. You can't blame them for that. I think there's a lot players in the MLS and the A-League that think it's easy to come over here and play, and if they ever try it they find out it's really not.
8) Play MLS Commissioner for a day. What do you change?
BF: The whole league format. I would make it one table from top to bottom. I would implement the same competitions that they have around the world. You have the Lamar Hunt Open Cup which includes all teams in the United States. Then I'd have the League Cup that you have at the end of the season, call it what you want. But the actual, true league champion is the one with the most points at the end of the year. I think it's ridiculous in all American sports that if you go through the regular season in first place, then lose in the first round of the playoffs you're not deemed the champion. In MLS the season is eight months; over here, the season is ten months long. At the end of ten months, the person on top of the tree should be the champion. If you can win a cup competition, that's great. But the league championship should be the foremost priority. In MLS, all you have to do is just get into the playoffs. From there, if you have a good run you are considered the champion, and I don't agree with that.
9) Do goalkeepers study attackers like pitchers study batters?
BF: In the run of play I would say a lot less, as opposed to people who are taking free kicks, penalties, and things of that nature. In the run of play you'll watch how a team plays more. What I try to study is when players have got a very good delivery on set pieces, whether it is free kicks, corners, or penalties; then I'll try to focus on what individual players try to do.
10) Speaking of penalties, how do you save so many of them?
BF: Who knows? I think the older that I've become, I've had the luxury of playing against many of these guys often, so I know some of their tendencies. Second, I've worked for many years on being able to read players as they are running up, or maybe even read the player before they've taken the shot. There's all sorts of different things you can look at to try to detect which side they are going to be going. Saying that, if a player hits it hard enough and in the corner, even if you go the right way you're not always going to save them. A lot if it is what I call 'skilled luck.'
11) Where does someone with your wingspan shop for shirts?
BF: The tailors come to my house (laughs). Actually, there's plenty of places to find shirts, and if you get short sleeves you don't have to worry about it.
12) Do you sound more English to Americans or more American to the English?
BF: It's funny. The English don't think I have an accent at all. They think I sound American. And Americans think I sound English. I think I'm caught in the middle. By the time I spend a couple months in the States at the end of the summer, people can hear the accent changing to American again. When it's all done and I'm living back in the States, I'm sure it'll revert back to full-on an American Midwest accent. To be honest, I don't even notice it.